Interest in blockchain, the technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, has surged among students and faculty at Boston University.
CoinDesk, the leading online media platform covering the cryptocurrency space, recently named BU to its global list. Best Universities for Blockchain in 2022wrote: “A private research university in the heart of the Massachusetts capital city offers 12 blockchain-related courses, including blockchain, social impact and cryptography for data science. and a Master of Science in Financial Technology and a Master of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in Cybersecurity.The university also offers two postgraduate certificate programs: Financial Technology and Advanced Financial Technology. Students’ interest in blockchain is so high that they have launched 3 student clubs including Cryptocurrency Club, Fintech Club and BU Bitcoin Club..”
All this action raises a few questions starting with . . .
What is blockchain in the first place?
“Blockchain is essentially a distributed database technology maintained and used by many individuals at once. Gary Tukaras, Associate Professor of Information Systems, Questrom School of Business. “Think of it like Google Docs, where multiple people can read and edit a document at the same time, but it doesn’t have to be owned by a central entity like Google.”
Mark WilliamsQuestrom Finance Master Instructor and Faculty Advisor to the BU Fintech Club (“fintech” is financial technology), said blockchain “allows for the secure recording of digital transactions through a decentralized, trustless system. , may eliminate the need for For traditional intermediaries such as banks and brokers. ”
Williams created the first graduate-level fintech course at BU and sees blockchain as “a proof process in which decentralized transactions are approved and added to a secure, immutable digital ledger.” Blockchain is also an open-source system (as opposed to a company-owned closed platform). That means anyone can write a program for it, which “allows for creativity and innovation,” he says, Williams.
This leads to a natural follow-up question.
How is blockchain used?
In addition to cryptocurrencies, blockchain has given us NFTs or “non-fungible tokens”. An NFT is a unique digital identifier recorded on the blockchain that proves ownership of an asset. As Tsoukalas explains, NFTs or “tokenization provide the ability to divide ownership of an asset among multiple people”.
For example, multiple investors can own homes and all receive income, he says. Their ownership is represented by tokens, which give them profit sharing and voting rights.
Williams said NFTs “will become a multi-billion dollar industry that is taking the art world by storm, solving the problem of ensuring there is no counterfeiting and ensuring that royalties go to the artists who actually create the digital representations.” ,” he explained. He adds that even Major League Baseball and the NBA have jumped on the popularity of NFTs and are creating digital sports cards.
NFTs have become a high-profile use of blockchain, but the technology has many other uses as well. “I am really interested in how blockchain can replace financial institutions in a trustless environment,” he says. “Why JP Morgan [investment bank] If so, it’s because there are two parties to the transaction, who may not know each other, but both trust the intermediary. By creating a trustless environment, third-party intermediaries no longer need to be paid at both ends, eliminating what is known as the frictional cost of transactions. ”
Blockchain has the potential to expand access to lending. “Underbank [or unbanked] It’s about 15% of the Greater Boston community,” Williams says. “If we can give this marginalized group direct access to funding using blockchain, we can create a gateway, not a barrier, and actually improve people’s living standards.”
Are students showing greater interest in blockchain?
without a doubt. BU Senior Jasmine Fangchu ZhouAn economics and mathematics major, she first learned about blockchain in her senior year of high school. “My cousin is a cryptocurrency trader and said I should look into blockchain,” she says. After her sophomore year at BU, Zhou worked as a summer intern at a cryptocurrency company. binance.
“It was during my internship that summer that I understood what a big world blockchain is with so many applications, not just cryptocurrencies,” Zhou said. She later joined her BU Her Blockchain Club and began attending events in Boston and New York City. “Currently, I am working on token economics, which is closely related to economics research,” she says.
Zhou has noticed a surge in student interest in blockchain. “About a year ago, I started hearing more and more students talking about it. The BU Blockchain Club brought people together and invited an outstanding guest speaker, her, to talk about blockchain with the community. “I’m doing a really great job of educating people,” she says.
Henry WillisA sophomore in data science and a member of the BU Fintech Club, attended his first meeting with the club last year and said, “There were so many members at the meeting that half of us had to stand up. I was surprised that I had to
Questrom’s Williams sees interest in blockchain moving away from cryptocurrencies to other applications such as NFTs and smart contracts. “What I’m seeing now is probably because the value of cryptocurrencies has fallen so much, that students are becoming more focused on the underlying technology of the blockchain itself. We are building momentum.”
So, is BU enhancing its course offerings on blockchain?
Blockchain and its applications span multiple disciplines, including computer science, finance, economics, business, and engineering. and, CoinDesk BU offers 12 blockchain-related courses, including crypto for blockchain, social impact, and data science.
Stephen KouQuestrom, Professor of Management and Finance, teaches a graduate-level course called Economics in FinTech that covers blockchain and blockchain programming. “There are so many students enrolling in this class, which is a testament to the value students place in it,” says Kou. “Blockchain is an important trend in the fintech industry. There are jobs available for students and other universities offer graduate programs related to blockchain.”
Beyond BUs, is there a blockchain ecosystem emerging?
Could a thriving blockchain ecosystem develop in Greater Boston, as we’ve seen in life sciences? There will be an opportunity to collaborate on blockchain, where educators, students and start-ups will interact and get exposed to all these amazing blockchain applications. ”
Willis gives a personal example. hack boston I placed third in one of the prize pools at an event co-hosted by Harvard and MIT. In addition to winning thousands of dollars, he has connected with two event sponsors who want to personally fund our project. ”
This project uses blockchain to reduce the impact of climate change. “We are using blockchain to replicate and improve the cap-and-trade system currently in place in his 13 states in the United States to limit emissions,” Willis said. “Corruption and sheer accident often lead to carbon permits being double-counted or hoarded by companies with significant resources to manipulate the market.”
Zhou gives his final thoughts: There’s so much collaboration and energy going on here that it’s really valuable for all of us, now around blockchain. ”
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